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NBA Saturday: Scout’s Take on 2014 Draft

An NBA scout breaks down the 2014 NBA Draft class and gives his take on prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker among others

Alex Kennedy

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As the 2013-14 NBA season winds down, it’s clear that a number of teams are already looking ahead to the 2014 NBA Draft. At this point, certain teams seem more concerned with getting ping pong balls than wins, which is understandable considering this is a very talented class that may include a number of franchise-changing players at the top of the draft board.

NBA decision-makers have now had months to evaluate the draft’s top prospects, so executives and scouts have a pretty good read on each player. While March Madness will certainly influence their opinions as well, the sample size is big enough for people in NBA circles to break down a player.

Basketball Insiders wanted to see what NBA talent evaluators are saying about this draft class and its top prospects, so we caught up with an Eastern Conference scout to get his take on the 2014 NBA Draft. The scout spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the situation.

On the 2014 NBA Draft as a whole:

“It’s a good draft. There isn’t a consensus prize at the top of the draft – no LeBron James or Derrick Rose or Kyrie Irving – which means the team that gets the No. 1 pick will have a difficult decision to make.

“This draft is much, much better than last year’s draft. There’s no doubt about that. I believe this draft class will have multiple All-Stars, whereas last year’s draft may not produce a single All-Star.

“Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle have failed to live up to expectations, but they are still very talented players. They may not have played as well as everyone hoped this season, but they all have a chance to be special players and have long, successful NBA careers. Even though they didn’t blow everyone away, they are all so young and they all have a ton of potential.

»In Related: 2014 NBA Mock Draft

“There’s no question that this is an important draft. A lot of teams are hoping to land a player that they can build around in this draft. It’s also a big deal because of the importance of rookie deals in the new collective bargaining agreement.

“In a draft like this, with so many intriguing prospects, the best pick may be No. 3 or No. 4 so that you can just see who falls to you rather than having to make that tough choice.”

On Andrew Wiggins:

“He’s lightning quick and he has one of the best first steps that I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t get his shoulders low, he stands straight up and down and is kind of mechanical when he plays. He also has a tendency to settle for jump shots. He’s extremely athletic, though, and he can get by anyone.

“I’m not sure about his body language. He’s not a pouter or anything, but it just seems like he’s either happy or overwhelmed. I’d like to see him get angry and fired up. I really haven’t seen any competitive emotion from him.

»In Related: Tanking in the Draft Rarely Works

“I think he has a high ceiling, but I don’t think he’ll be a LeBron James or Kevin Durant type of player like some people are projecting. I could see him making a major impact on a team because he is such a great athlete, he can get by anybody and he shows flashes of brilliance. Every so often, he’ll make an incredible move and then you just don’t see it again for a long time. That consistency has to improve.

“He was put in a difficult position this year because all eyes were on him and the expectations were through the roof. He failed to live up to the hype, but he can still become a very good player who has a successful career in the NBA.

“He’s still so young and has so much room to grow, so it’s difficult to say what his ceiling will be. I’ve heard some people say that his upside is Tracy McGrady or Paul George, which makes sense. I could also see him becoming a lot like Rudy Gay.”

On Jabari Parker:

“Jabari is a player who scares teams. You’re scared to pass on him because he has the ‘it’ factor, smoothness and intangibles. Nobody says a bad thing about him. Even players in the league who know him speak very positively about him. He seems like a great kid and someone who would be great in a locker room. He’s very talented.

“The reason you’re scared to take him is because there is a history of players who played the four in college whose games haven’t translated to the NBA, such as Michael Beasley or Derrick Williams. There’s some concern that he’ll struggle and become a tweener. The best thing for him is that players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Paul Pierce have been moving over to power forward lately and thriving in the position, because it shows teams that having a player like that at the four can work.

»In Related: The Top 10 Players in the NBA

“Still, there are questions about Parker’s body and athleticism. He’s not the quickest guy and his athleticism has been questioned. He’s had some explosive moments, but there are a lot of times when he doesn’t look like a good athlete. Teams will likely want to change his body and conditioning once he gets to the NBA.

“He was shooting the ball really well early in the season, which skewed his numbers, but he has come back down to earth lately. I think he’ll be a very good player in the NBA, but I don’t know if he can be a franchise-changing savior that some people peg him to be. My NBA comparison for him is Paul Pierce.”

On Joel Embiid:

“He has had the biggest impact on this draft so far. Entering the season, the conversation was about Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, and then scouts starting falling for Embiid. Scouts were falling in love with him and then looking over their shoulder hoping that no other teams were noticing how great he looked. Obviously, he kept improving and the secret got out.

“He’s able to do so many things at his size that nobody else can. He has amazing footwork, great athleticism, nice touch and a beautiful stroke on his shot. He may have the highest upside in the draft because he still has so much room to grow.

“His footwork reminds me of Hakeem Olajuwon and his power, outside shot and skills remind me a little of Patrick Ewing. He could be really, really good.

“I do think the pressure of being hyped up as the consensus No. 1 pick did start to get to him a little bit. He hasn’t been the same player recently. Yes, he’s had the health issues, but he doesn’t seem as loose and his demeanor has changed. A team will definitely have to look into his background and learn about him before using such a high pick on him.

“The back issue is kind of scary too for a big man. You never want to see that in a young center. The team that picks him will have to look into that and make sure it’s not something that’s going to limit him.”

On Dante Exum:

“I have seen him play live a limited number of times, but I have to say that he’s really intriguing. He has a legitimate chance to go No. 1 in this draft. He’s that good. His upside is enormous. I won’t be surprised if he goes No. 1 on draft night. If we land the No. 1 pick, he’s a guy who we’re seriously going to look at.

“There is nothing that suggests that he won’t be a great player. He’s athletic, he can shoot and he can handle the ball. He’s incredibly versatile. He really can play three positions, which is attractive to a lot of teams. I’m excited to watch him develop and see what kind of player he becomes.

»In Related: Fraschilla Compares Exum to Jordan

“He hasn’t played against great competition yet, but he’s a phenomenal prospect and I think his game will translate well to the NBA. I think he’ll be an All-Star in this league.

“When I see him, I think his upside is Anfernee Hardaway. I could see him being a similar type player, someone who is able to impact a game in many ways and cause a lot of problems for opposing teams.”

On Julius Randle:

He’s a man, and he won’t get pushed around by other players. He has the ability to face up and take guys off of the dribble. Right now, he’s left-hand dominant, so he must work on his right hand and keep improving his jumper if he wants to take the next step and really wreak havoc.

“I really think he’s someone who will benefit from playing with a better team. If you watch Kentucky, their point guard play and shooters have been bad, which has made things really tough for him. The team is a mess. It’s a chaotic situation since there isn’t much leadership and the group is so inexperienced.

“He should be able to play in the league for a really long time, but the question is how good will he be?

“People around the league are really interested to see how he measures out – how tall and how long he is. You’d love if he could play the three to utilize his ball handling and skills, but that’s not his game.

“When I look at Randle, I see some Jamal Mashburn and some Paul Millsap.”

On Marcus Smart:

“He’s one of those guys who has been over scouted. It’s tough being under the microscope for two seasons. He’s had to deal with tons of pressure. With that said, you could put him in an NBA game right now and he’d be alright.

“He’s a great athlete, very strong, and I really like his game. His shooting will come along, the question is how much? He’ll benefit from having NBA talent around him at the next level; that should help him as a facilitator and he won’t have to carry the scoring load like he is now.

“Look how bad that team was without him. I think that says a lot about his impact on a team. When I see him, I see a mix between Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups in terms of his body type and leadership and fire. I think he’s going to be a very good player. He has All-Star potential.

“A lot of people have asked me if I’m concerned about the ‘fan pushing’ incident. Not at all. Honestly, I kind of liked it. I love that he gets fired up, that he gets that competitive. Others may not have liked it, but I love the intensity.

“His decision to go back to school this year says a lot about who he is. The biggest fear for an NBA team is that we’re going to draft a kid and then he’ll lose his hunger right when he gets a paycheck. I’m not worried about that with Smart. He had a chance to get a payday last year and turned it down because he wanted to stick with his team and keep improving at the collegiate level. That says a lot about him.”

On Noah Vonleh:

“Vonleh is a very interesting player. He needs time to develop, but he could end up being really good. I would definitely say he has All-Star potential. The upside is there.

“He can score with both hands, he has an outside shot and he’s a long, great athlete. He hasn’t had the chance to be a go-to guy at Indiana because their point guard shoots the ball a lot, but this is a kid who has all of the tools to be very special and he’s so young.

“Because he just turned 18 years old in August, it’s easy to see why a team would fall in love with him. He’s younger than a lot of the other prospects at the top of the draft, and he just has so much potential.

“He hasn’t gotten the same amount of attention as some of the other players on this list, but he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on. A few years from now, he could be one of the best players from this class and an All-Star. The tools are there for him to be great.”

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Daily: Looking At The 2018 Draft Class By Tiers

The NBA Draft is a hard thing to predict, especially when it comes to draft order and individual team needs, Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler takes a look at how this draft looks in tiers.

Steve Kyler

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Looking At The 2018 Draft In Tiers

While Mock Drafts are an easy way to look at how the NBA Draft might play out, what they do no do is give a sense of what a specific player might be as a player at the next level. With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at how some of the notable NBA draft prospects project.

It’s important to point out that situation and circumstance often impact how a player develops, even more so than almost any other variable.

So while the goal here is to give a sense of how some NBA teams and insiders see a draft prospect’s likely potential, it is by no means meant to suggest that a player can’t break out of his projection and become more or sometimes less than his he was thought to be.

Every draft class has examples of players projected to be one thing that turns out to be something else entirely, so these projections are not meant to be some kind of final empirical judgment or to imply a specific draft position, as each team may value prospects differently.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at the 2018 NBA Draft in Tiers.

The Potential Future All-Stars

DeAndre Ayton – Arizona – C – 7’0″ – 245 lbs – 20 yrs
Luka Doncic – Real Madrid – SG – 6’7″ – 218 lbs – 19 yrs
Michael Porter Jr – Missouri – SF/PF – 6’10” – 216 lbs – 20 yrs

Maybe Stars, But Likely High-Level Starters

Jaren Jackson Jr. – Michigan State – PF – 6’10” – 225 lbs – 19 yrs
Marvin Bagley III – Duke – PF – 6’11” – 220 lbs – 19 yrs
Wendell Carter – Duke – PF – 6’10” – 257 lbs – 19 yrs
Mohamed Bamba – Texas – C – 7’0″ – 216 lbs – 20 yrs
Collin Sexton – Alabama – PG – 6’2″ – 184 lbs – 19 yrs
Mikal Bridges – Villanova – SG/SF – 6’7″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Robert Williams – Texas A&M – C – 6’9″ – 235 lbs – 21 yrs
Miles Bridges – Michigan State – SF/PF – 6’7″ – 230 lbs – 20 yrs
Dzanan Musa – Cedevita – SF – 6′ 9″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Kentucky – SG – 6′ 6″ – 181 lbs – 20 yrs
Trae Young – Oklahoma – PG – 6’2″ – 180 lbs – 20 yrs

Maybe Starters, But Surely Rotation Players

Kevin Knox – Kentucky – SF – 6’9″ – 206 lbs – 19 yrs
Troy Brown – Oregon – SG – 6’6″ – 210 lbs – 19 yrs
Khyri Thomas – Creighton – SG – 6′ 3″ – 210 lbs – 22 yrs
Zhaire Smith – Texas Tech – SG – 6′ 5″ – 195 lbs – 19 yrs
Rodions Kurucs – FC Barcelona B – SF – 6′ 9″ – 220 lbs – 20 yrs
Aaron Holiday – UCLA – PG – 6′ 1″ – 185 lbs – 22 yrs
Jacob Evans – Cincinnati – SF – 6′ 6″ – 210 lbs – 21 yrs
De’Anthony Melton – USC – PG – 6’4″ – 190 lbs – 20 yrs

The Swing For The Fence Prospects – AKA Boom-Or-Bust

Lonnie Walker – Miami – SG – 6’4″ – 206 lbs – 20 yrs
Mitchell Robinson – Chalmette HS – C – 7′ 0″ – 223 lbs – 20 yrs
Anfernee Simons – IMG Academy – SG – 6′ 5″ – 177 lbs – 19 yrs
Jontay Porter – Missouri – C – 6′ 11″ – 240 lbs – 19 yrs
Lindell Wigginton – Iowa State – PG – 6′ 2″ – 185 lbs – 20 yrs
Bruce Brown – Miami – SG – 6’5″ – 191 lbs – 22 yrs
Isaac Bonga – Skyliners (Germany) – SF/SG – 6’9″ – 203 lbs – 19 yrs
Hamidou Diallo – Kentucky – SG – 6’5″ – 197 lbs – 20 yrs

Players not listed are simply draft prospects that could be drafted, but don’t project clearly into any of these tiers.

If you are looking for a specific player, check out the Basketball Insiders Top 100 Prospects list, this listing is updated weekly.

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Top Ten NCAA Basketball Juniors: 2017-18

While the NCAA junior class typically provides a limited number of NBA-ready options, this could be the most talented group in quite some time.

Mike Yaffe

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NCAA juniors might appear to yield limited options for NBA draft purposes. But while the “one and done” athletes receive the most hype, there can also be worthy candidates from the third-year ranks due to factors like attrition, injuries, suspensions or transferring to another school.

Although the majority of last season’s top prospects either stayed for their senior year (Grayson Allen, Trevon Bluiett) or went undrafted (Melo Trimble), there was still NBA-ready talent to be had in both Justin Jackson (Sacramento Kings) and Dillon Brooks (Memphis Grizzlies).

This year’s crop should be more fruitful, as many of the athletes listed below were able to showcase their talents in the March Madness tournament; in fact, three of them played in the national championship game itself.

With honorable mention due to Shake Milton (SMU), Jalen Hudson (Florida) and Melvin Frazier (Tulane), here are the top ten NCAA basketball juniors from the 2017-18 season:

10. Allonzo Trier, SG, Arizona

Tale of the tape: 6 ft. 4 in., 205 lb.

Despite being overshadowed by top overall prospect DeAndre Ayton, Trier had an impressive campaign of his own that featured personal highs in both scoring (18.1 PPG) and free-throw percentage (.865). He was named the MVP of the PAC-12 tournament, but failed to deliver (10 points, zero three-pointers) in the team’s upset loss to Buffalo to derail the Wildcats’ post-season aspirations.

Trier’s college-level career was extended by a pair of PED-related suspensions, but perhaps his season-high 32 points in his first game back served notice that the infractions are firmly in the past. If nothing else, he should at least be able to represent his team in the NBA dunk contest.

Draft-day projection: mid-to-late second round

9. Moritz Wagner, F/C, Michigan

Tale of the tape: 6 ft. 11 in., 235 lb.

Wagner raised eyebrows with his timely three-point shooting in the NCAA tournament, but the reality is that he averaged just over 39 percent from beyond the arc in both his sophomore and junior years. In addition, he set collegiate highs in both rebounds (7.1) and points per game (14.6) in what was a successful, if not breakthrough, campaign.

Although bigs who can shoot from outside are more commonplace than ever, there is surely room in the league for the German who is likely to follow in the footsteps of fellow countrymen Dirk Nowitzki and Maxi Kleber, with the latter being the more apt comparison.

Draft-day projection: mid second round

8. Jalen Brunson, PG, Villanova

Tale of the tape: 6 ft. 2 in., 190 lb.

Brunson blossomed into the Big East player of the year while staying put at Villanova for three seasons. His 18.9 points and 4.6 assists per game as a junior are nearly double what he averaged as a freshman, and his ascension to running the point for the defending national champs has been impressive.

No one can question Brunson’s passion for the game, but he lacks the scoring ability of comparably-sized point guards Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, both of whom averaged over 24 PPG at the collegiate level. He will also need to improve on the defensive end, but a sustainable NBA career similar to that of Jeff Teague is within reach.

Draft-day projection: early-to-mid second round

7. Chimezie Metu, F/C, USC

Tale of the tape: 6 ft. 10 in., 225 lb.

A Lawndale, CA native who stayed local, Metu has averaged nearly the same points (14.8 then 15.7), rebounds (7.6 then 7.4) and blocks (1.4 then 1.6) per contest between his sophomore and junior years. Yet this apparent level of consistency belies a great deal of variation in his contributions on a game-by-game basis, and don’t think the scouts haven’t noticed.

As a case in point, Metu’s final Pac-12 tournament ended with a thud, as he managed a mere seven points and four boards against Arizona, and the Trojans were subsequently left out of the big dance. Much like Texas’ Mo Bamba, he possesses the size and tools to be effective in the NBA, as long as he is willing to put forth the effort.

Draft-day projection: late first-to-early second round

6. Keita Bates-Diop, F, Ohio State

Tale of the tape: 6 ft. 7 in., 235 lb.

Bates-Diop responded to his medical redshirt in 2016-17 by becoming the Big Ten’s player of the year, during which he produced 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. He averaged 26.0 PPG in the NCAA tourney, although he was nearly kept off the glass (three rebounds) in the Buckeyes’ elimination loss to Gonzaga.

While Bates-Diop has drawn comparisons to the Dallas Mavericks’ Harrison Barnes, his burly stature seems more reminiscent of former Mavericks forward Justin Anderson, who has been a bench fixture since his trade to the Philadelphia Sixers. Despite Bates-Diop’s impressive college resume, it will be incumbent upon him to cause matchup problems as a stretch-four at the next level, a stipulation that most likely will eliminate him from lottery pick consideration for now.

Draft-day projection: late first round

5. Jacob Evans, SF, Cincinnati

Tale of the tape: 6 ft. 6 in., 210 lb.

Evans brings Swiss Army knife potential at the small forward position that NBA teams covet. His surface-level stats (13.0 PPG, 3.1 APG) aren’t eye-popping, but when you consider that he led the NCAA’s second-ranked defensive team in both categories, it seems feasible that he was limited more by style of play than by personal ability.

Despite his deflated offensive stats, Evans converted 37 percent of his three-point attempts, so comparing him to the Houston Rockets’ Trevor Ariza seems appropriate for his skill set. In the Bearcats’ loss to Nevada in the NCAA tournament, Evans had 19 points and seven rebounds, which coaches would gladly take from him on a regular basis.

Draft-day projection: late first round

4. Khyri Thomas, SG, Creighton

Tale of the tape: 6 ft. 3 in., 210 lb.

With a 6 ft. 10 in. wingspan (showcased on this block) and the ability to connect at a 41.1 percent clip from outside, Thomas may best exemplify a prototypical “three and D” player in the league. His 15.1 PPG and 1.7 SPG are both indicative of year-over-year improvement, and he possesses the physical dimensions that can make him effective as a pro.

Playing on a Blue Jays squad that got eliminated in their first game of both the conference and the NCAA tournaments afforded Thomas little opportunity to perform in the spotlight, but the level of consistency with which he produced before those early exits cannot be ignored.

Draft-day projection: mid-to-late first round

3. Jerome Robinson, SG, Boston College

Tale of the tape: 6 ft. 6 in., 191 lb.

A tall shooter with a slight frame, Robinson brings to mind former NBAer Kerry Kittles, who was a productive member of the New Jersey Nets (before they moved to Brooklyn) for several years. Playing for an average Eagles squad, Robinson provided double-digit scoring in all but three games during his junior season, including a whopping 46 points at Notre Dame.

Although his Boston College team didn’t participate in March Madness, Robinson still averaged 21.7 PPG in three conference tournament games, which included two opponents (Clemson, NC State) that were invited to the big dance. He probably won’t be drafted in the top 15, but he makes for a safe choice among the better NBA teams, which would allow time for him to develop his upper body strength.

Draft-day projection: mid-to-late first round

2. Aaron Holiday, PG, UCLA

Tale of the tape: 6 ft. 1 in., 185 lb.

After starting his freshman year, Holiday was relegated to the bench as a sophomore before reclaiming the starting gig after incumbent Lonzo Ball departed for the NBA. His junior campaign was remarkable, as he averaged 20.3 PPG and connected on 42.9 percent of his three-point attempts. Over the course of the season, he scored in single digits once while cracking the 30-point barrier on three occasions (including the Pac-12 quarterfinals).

As the youngest brother of current NBA players Jrue and Justin, Aaron Holiday brings a pedigree that should enhance his draft-day value. While he is smallish by league standards, both Yogi Ferrell (as a key reserve) and Kemba Walker (as an All-Star) have proven that so-called limitation is far from being a show-stopper.

Draft-day projection: mid-to-late first round

1. Mikal Bridges, G/F, Villanova

Tale of the tape: 6 ft. 7 in., 210 lb.

A swingman by NBA standards, Bridges nearly doubled his production as a sophomore by averaging 17.7 PPG, which was buoyed by his ability to make three-pointers at a 43.5 percent clip. Although super-sub Donte DiVincenzo dominated the national title game, it was Bridges who led the Wildcat starters with 19 points of his own after being named MVP of the preceding Big East tournament. Much like the aforementioned Jacob Evans, he is capable of stuffing the stat sheet, but Bridges is the better offensive threat of the two.

With his 7 ft. 2 in. wingspan and long-distance accuracy, perhaps Bridges himself said it best when he listed Paul George and Kawhi Leonard as players that “intrigued” him. While mock drafts have varied wildly in terms of projecting the other names on this list, Bridges appears to be a consensus top-ten pick, albeit towards the tail end of that continuum.

Draft-day projection: early-to-mid first round

 

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NBA Daily: 2018 NBA 60-Pick Mock Draft – 4/10/18

With the floodgates open and college players entering the draft class left and right, Steve Kyler offers up another 60-pick NBA Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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With the NBA regular season coming to a close, there are some draft ramifications to watch.

Should the Milwaukee Bucks stay where they are today, they would not convey their pick to the Phoenix Suns as that pick is protected in such a way that it only conveys if it lands between the 11 and 16th pick.

Equally, the dead heat that exists in the Western Conference playoff race, could shift several teams around the draft board based on how the season actually finishes.

There are also some key dates to keep in mind this draft season:

College players can request information from the NBA Draft Advisory panel on where they might fall in the draft; they must request this information by April 13. The Advisory panel is comprised of well-respected draft talent evaluators that offer would-be draft prospects a draft range valuation based on a survey of NBA executives. Historically their range projections have been pretty accurate, and it’s a way for a college player to understand how the NBA views them as a draft prospect. It’s not a guarantee by any means, simply an informed survey of how NBA teams value them in terms of where they might get drafted, if at all.

The NBA’s Early Entry deadline is April 22. All underclassmen that wish to be included for draft consideration must declare in writing to the NBA, by that date.

The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago on May 15. The annual NBA Draft Combine will get underway on May 16, also in Chicago. In any given draft year, roughly 70 percent of players invited to the Combine end up being drafted into the NBA, so a Combine invite is a significant milestone.

The NCAA requires all players wishing to maintain their college eligibility, without penalty, to withdraw from the NBA Draft by 11:59 pm on May 30. That is an NCAA mandated date, not related to anything involving the NBA, and that notice must be delivered in writing.

The NBA’s draft withdrawal date is June 11 by 5:00 pm ET. The NBA’s date allows a prospect to remain NBA draft eligible for future NBA drafts and is not related to any NCAA rule or date. There are ways for college players that did not accept benefits to return to college, however, they may be subject to NCAA penalties.

Here is this week’s 2018 NBA Mock Draft, based on the standings of games played through 4/09/18:

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